Gun violence is the leading cause of death for American children, teenagers and students according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder database. According to an online interest meeting at Drake University held by the national gun violence prevention organization Students Demand Action, every day around 120 Americans are killed by a firearm, and over 200 are wounded by one.
Acts of gun violence on school grounds have become an increasingly regular issue in America, as it has become almost routine to hear about another deadly shooting at a school on the news. According to student consensus at Drake, this has caused a sense of melancholic normalcy among American students, as the idea of the stereotypical “school shooter” attacking their school doesn’t seem completely out of reach.
“I think the reason that we are so passive is because we’ve accepted it as our new normal,” first-year Sadie Jones said.
This sentiment rings even more true for students who are part of minority groups, as they are already at greater risk of violence and bigotry in their day-to-day lives.
“A lot of us are scared because we know if you get stuck in a shooting, we might be the first to get hurt,” Ty Cullison, a transgender Mexican-American first-year student, said.
In response to the potential for gun violence on campus, Drake has implemented numerous safety measures, including Drake Public Safety, emergency blue light poles and the Rave Guardian app.
Public Safety personnel act as a deterrent for crime as they monitor campus, preventing anything suspicious from making its way onto campus. The emergency blue light poles and the Rave Guardian app act as a way for students to directly reach emergency support if they are ever in danger or feel unsafe on campus.
These physical aspects of protection are not the only help for students on campus. There are also support services for students should they need to recover from an event involving gun violence, such as the Drake Counseling Center.
“We have excellent emergency response plans as well as prevention resources in place, but responsibilities and protocols related to our emergency plans must stay current, ongoing training must occur and we need to be able to identify gaps in our ability to make Drake an even safer campus,” Chief Student Affairs Officer Jerry Parker said.
According to Parker, Drake can do as much as it can to protect its students, but things are constantly changing and safety is never a guarantee. The best everyone can do is remain vigilant and aware.
“It’s like the message that we all hear in airport terminals — see something, say something. This is no different on a college campus or anywhere we find ourselves in this day and age,” Parker said.
In response, students are seeing something, and they are saying something. Because of the constant gun violence that students face, organizations opposing gun violence have formed to confront the issue at the highest political levels.
One of these organizations is the previously mentioned Students Demand Action, an organization created by the students of the ‘mass-shooting generation’ to advocate for tighter gun policies, bring awareness to corruption in the gun industry and, overall, fight back against these preventable tragedies. For example, they helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which cracked down on background checks, red flag warnings, gun trafficking and the dating-partner loophole, with the intent to prevent those with previous domestic abuse charges from acquiring a firearm.
At the head of this push at Drake University is Chloe Gayer, a sophomore at Drake University and the Iowa Advocacy Lead for Students Demand Action. She has been fighting against gun violence for a few years now, as it has had a direct impact on her life and those around her.
Being a domestic violence and gun violence survivor has helped shape Gayer’s opinions on the issue, especially as it relates to the misuse and power imbalance that can be brought on by guns. Gayer, who had a hand in influencing the previously mentioned Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, sees the harm that guns can bring and believes that the current laws are outdated and must be revised by the newer generations.
Gayer specifically mentioned the Parkland school shooting and how she was inspired by the ability of people her age to get out there and be a voice for change.
“I remember that was the first time I ever saw people who were my age — students — being able to stand up and affect policy,” Gayer said.
Gayer is but one of many examples of students going out into the world protesting legislative standby, rallying support movements and inspiring others to be the change that they wish to see in the world.
“These tragedies are preventable if our legislatures take action, and they are not going to take action unless we do,” Gayer said. “Legislatures are supposed to represent the people, and they are not right now.”
One of the issues that Gayer is taking action against is Iowa’s new Amendment 1, The Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment. According to her, its presentation was greatly oversimplified, causing voters to gloss over how the law impacts the access to, checking of and potential harm caused by firearms.
Some gun safety advocates claim Iowa has lenient gun laws compared to other states, especially regarding concealed carry and requiring a permit, making the potential for gun violence ever prevalent.
“Our voices are so fucking powerful,” Gayer said. “The words that we say — the experience that we have had — is so unique but so tragic and deadly. Unless our legislatures are going to get that in their heads, then we’re going to replace them.”
Editor’s note: This publication contains corrections different from the print article. Upon investigating, we realized our error and corrected the mistakes.